Seleyian Agnes Partoip is the Founder and Director of the Murua Girl Child Education Programme as well as a girls and women’s rights activist.
As a survivor of FGM and as a mother of an eight-year-old girl, I am raising awareness about FGM so she grows up in an FGM free society.
Tell us about yourself
I am end FGM activist from Narok country in Kenya. I am the Founder and Director of Murua Girl Child Education Program Narok, a community based organisation working to promote girls education and raise awareness to end FGM.
How did you get involved in the movement to End FGM.
When I was cut, I was 16 years old, and there was no awareness about it. In fact, I looked forward to it as a rite of passage and becoming a woman. It was two years later that the end FGM campaign began. I was confused and scared about all the effects I might face due to FGM. It affected my self-esteem and I was no longer proud of being a woman - I was scared of all the things that were going to happen to me. I don’t want other girls to go through that – so that is why I set up my organisation, and why I do what I do.
What are your strengths?
I am passionate to raise awareness about FGM and get people to think about their acceptance of the practice. I am a strong facilitator, and I love public speaking and bringing people together to have dialogue, so I can talk to large groups of people about what I do and why I want FGM to end. I also love writing and blogging and am often on local media speaking up about FGM (Maasai FM Stations) – I want to use this to get people thinking and talking about FGM.
I am passionate to raise awareness about FGM and get people to think about their acceptance of the practice.
What would you say is your most significant contribution to ending FGM?
In November 2016 I formed the Narok Youth End FGM Network. We started with a youth forum that attracted 50 youth from my village, and today the movement has reached out to 220 young people through our monthly forum. The Network members ascribe to the vision of ending FGM in one generation by implementing five different activities; pledging not to cut their daughters; educating the community through dialogue and discussion forums; reporting cases of FGM to the authorities; eliminating stigma for uncut girls; supporting survivor’s to lead full and productive lives, and amplifying the stories of change through the social media platform.
Our organisation became a member of the Narok Children Stakeholders Network, made up of organisations working with children in Narok County. I then introduced the network to The Girl Generation to accelerate social change communications at the grassroots through our member organisations and grow the end FGM movement in Kenya.
What is your advice to those working on FGM?
The most important thing is connecting with the community. Do not tell them what to do - ask them what they want to do to change.
I hold onto the hope that my community is ready to change and it just takes more awareness and education to make that change a reality. My community inspires me – I have developed a very strong bond with them, and they inspire me by their willingness to change and their openness to understand what we are talking about. The most important thing is connecting with the community, not being judgemental or coming in as a ‘know-it-all’. It’s important to seek to understand the community - why do they hold this belief? What it is about their identity that makes them hold onto it so tightly? – once you’ve understood the practice, from there you are able to dialogue and work together with them to come up with a solution. Do not tell them what to do – ask them what they want to do to change.